Radiation background in Altai normal, no toxic agents in water

BARNAUL, August 26 (Itar-Tass) — Radiation background in the Altai Republic where the search for the Progress spacecraft debris is underway is normal, no toxins have been detected in water, the republic’s department of the Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service (Rospotrebnadzor) told Itar-Tass on Friday.

“The ongoing monitoring of radiation background over the past three days has not found any changes, including in the area of the Karakoksha settlement,” the department said in a statement. Karakoksha is most probably the closest settlement to the site of the possible fall of the Progress debris.

Rospotrebnadzor is taking samples of soil near the village of Karakoksha, water samples from the Biya, Karakoksha and Sarakoksha Rivers. “In the Altai Territory water samples have been taken from the Biya River into which the Karakoksha River flows, and the Ob River in the area of Barnaul. No heptyl contamination has been found in the river water samples,” Rospotrebnadzor noted. The department also said that “monitoring conducted be specialists of the epidemiological department has not found any victims of the rocket fall or persons with acute poisoning.”

The Centre for Monitoring the impact area of fragments of carrier rockets in the Siberian region said that the basic version, which is now considered by specialists is that the Progress debris have not reached the ground, exploding in the air.

“Everything has burnt, including the propellant, before reaching the ground. The spaceship was falling from a height of 150 kilometres – so nothing should remain. To all appearances, no damage has been done to the natural environment,” head of the centre established by the Roskosmos Federal Space Agency, Professor Alexander Puzanov told Itar-Tass.

The cargo spacecraft crashed on August 24 at 20:55, local time, presumably in the Chebolak area of the Choya district of the Altai Republic. The spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome was to deliver more than 2.6 tonnes of cargoes to the International Space Station (ISS).

The highly toxic rocket fuel heptyl can pose potential danger to people staying in the space debris fall zone. The rocket-space industry sources told Itar-Tass that the Progress spacecraft carried about 800 kilograms of heptyl intended for use on the ISS.

The Progress is a Russian expendable freighter spacecraft. The spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft during its flight but upon docking with a space station, it allows astronauts inside, hence it is classified manned by the manufacturer. It was derived from the Soyuz spacecraft, and is launched with the Soyuz rocket. It is currently used to supply the International Space Station, but was originally used to supply Soviet space stations for many years. There are three to four flights of the Progress spacecraft to the ISS per year. Each spacecraft remains docked until shortly before the new one, or a Soyuz (which uses the same docking ports) arrives. Then it is filled with waste, disconnected, deorbited, and destroyed in the atmosphere. Because of the different Progress variants used for ISS, NASA uses its own nomenclature where “ISS 1P” means the first Progress spacecraft to ISS.

It has carried fuel and other supplies to all the space stations since Salyut 6. The idea for the Progress came from the realisation that in order for long duration space missions to be possible, there would have to be a constant source of supplies. It had been determined that a cosmonaut needed consumables (water, air, food, etc.) plus there was a need for maintenance items and payloads for experiments. It was impractical to launch this along with passengers in the small space available in the Soyuz. Progress spacecraft are currently used to resupply the International Space Station. Between 1 February 2003 and 26 July 2005, they were the only spacecraft available

Progress M-12M was launched by a Soyuz-U carrier rocket, flying from Area 1/5 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Lift-off occurred at 13:00:11 UTC on 24 August 2011. Approximately 325 seconds into flight, a malfunction was detected in the RD-0110 engine powering the Blok I third stage of the Soyuz-U rocket, which caused the onboard computer to terminate the flight through thrust termination. As a result, the vehicle failed to achieve orbit, re-entering over the Altai Republic. It was the first failure of a Progress spacecraft since launches began in 1978, and the third consecutive orbital launch failure worldwide, following the failures of Ekspress-AM4 and Shijian XI-04 less than a week previously.

The failure was not expected to have any immediate effect on the ISS crew, as the outpost was stocked with reserves of food, water and oxygen. The spacecraft was insured for three billion roubles (US$103 million). As a precaution, the launch of a GLONASS satellite on a Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat, which had been scheduled for 26 August, was delayed.

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